Small cells attract big players in semiconductor industry


The biggest names in chip design are finding their way into the small cell market. Freescale Semiconductor (FSL) said today that its processors will power the newest small cell base station from Ip.access. Great Britain’s Ip.access is the maker of the Oyster 3G femtocell technology and of NanoGSM, which the company calls the “world’s most deployed picocell.”

Freescale’s QorIQ Qonverge PSC9132 will power the new Ip.access base station, dubbed the E-100 Access Point. The product is aimed at the enterprise market and supports simultaneous 3G and LTE transmission. Freescale said the QorIQ Qonverge PSC9132 processor provides data speeds of up to 150 megabits per second for LTE users and 42 Mbps speeds for 3G users.

Freescale formed its Wireless Access Division about a year ago to focus on the emerging market for small cell processors. The PSC9132 is a quad-core solution with two DSP cores and two microprocessor cores. “We were the first to put the base station on a chip,” says Stephen Turnbull, marketing VP for the division, “and our product family scales all the way from femto pico cell base stations all the way up to macrocell base stations.”

Ip.access says scalability was a key reason the company chose Freescale to supply the chips for its E-100 Access Point. “It was actually a hard decision,” says Ip.access CTO Nick Johnson. “But we took a long hard look at the silicon market and decided Freescale was the best of the bunch.”

Network operators are increasingly turning to small cells to get more usage from their spectrum and to offload the heavy traffic that mobile broadband services are creating. NPD In-Stat predicts that annual sales of these devices will hit $14 billion by 2015. So the chips that power small cells will be in high demand. California’s Mindspeed Technologies (MSPD), which designs chips for use in network infrastructure, says that makers of small cells will be buying $3 billion worth of equipment from semiconductor companies by 2016. Mindspeed recently acquired Picochip, a U.K.-based pioneer in small cell chip technology that saw its market niche getting crowded as larger competitors like Freescale, Texas Instruments and Broadcom came into the space.

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Martha DeGrasse

Wireless Martha DeGrasse has been creating content for RCR Wireless News since 2011. Recent feature reports include Building Tomorrow's Neworks, Outdoor DAS and Small Cell Case Studies, Wireless Infrastructure Service Company Review, and Investing in HetNets. (All of these can be found by clicking on Reports at the top of this page.) At RCR, Martha also developed the 5 Things to Know Today series and the Mobile Minute. Prior to joining RCR Wireless News, Martha produced business and technology news for CNN and Dow Jones in New York. Martha left Dow Jones to move to Austin, Texas, where she managed the online editorial group at Hoover’s Online before taking a number of years off to be at home when her children were young. Follow her on Twitter @mdegrasseRCR